Women are more likely than men to suffer serious injuries or death in crashes, research finds

Elissa Rivas Image
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
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Women are 20% to 28% more likely to be killed, and 37% to 73% more likely to be seriously injured, and one explanation could be difference in vehicle protection.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Crash test after crash test and years of studies have led to big strides in vehicle safety, according to Jessica Jermakian with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"Improving seat belts and air bags has really benefited both men and women, so that's great news," she said.

Despite that great news, some bad news remains.

"Women are more likely than men to be killed in crashes, and we've known that for decades," said Jermakian.

The question is, why? Why are women 20% to 28% more likely than men to be killed, and 37% to 73% more likely to be seriously injured?

Jermakian led the way in pouring over real-world crash data from 1998 to 2015. Researchers discovered one possible explanation is a difference in vehicle choice between men and women.

"For instance, we know that men are more likely to drive pickup trucks," she explained. "We know that if men and women are driving the same type of vehicle, say an SUV, women are more likely to choose smaller, lighter versions."

That difference may mean less protection.

"Between vehicle classes like a mid-size car and a small car, when those two impact each other, the mid-size car is going to win," said Jermakian. "It's heavier, and the physics doesn't change."

Vehicle choice is not the only possible difference for men and women.

"Even the type of crashes they're in are different," Jermakian said.

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She told Eyewitness News that in side-impact and front-into-rear crashes, men are more likely to be driving the striking vehicle, leaving them at a lower risk of injury.

So what can you do to reduce your risk of injury?

"The advice that I would give to women is the same advice that I would give to all drivers - you should buy as much safety as you can afford," said Jermakian. "Bigger is better, but you don't have to drive a tank to get the benefit. Generally, you should avoid the smallest, lightest vehicles."

Look for a vehicle with good crash test ratings.

Also, look specifically for cars with the advanced technology that will prevent your risk of a crash in the first place - features like automatic emergency braking and electronic stability control.

Even if you choose a smaller vehicle, you'll have a better chance of staying out of a crash.

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